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On-demand roadside assistance app Urgent.ly will integrate with AT&T's connected car platform

Urgent.ly, an on-demand roadside assistance app that helps drivers call for assistance without membership fees, is now opening up to developers outside the company so that it can reach more customers in more places. The company also announced Monday that Urgent.ly will be an app on AT&T's Drive platform, an Internet-connected car dashboard.

According to Urgent.ly CEO Chris Spanos, having Urgent.ly integrated into the dashboard will "reduce the number of taps" a driver has to make to get help. Unlike previous generations of smart car assistance programs like General Motors' OnStar (in which pushing a button led to a call center), if a driver taps Urgent.ly, "the app will know where you are, and, by reading data from your car, what [kind of help you need]."

Urgent.ly bills itself as an "Uber for roadside assistance." Drivers in trouble can access the web platform (or can download the app on their phones in case of emergencies) and push a button to select what kind of help they need: towing, jump start, flat tire, lockout or gas. Drivers give some basic identifying information about their car, put in their credit card and Urgent.ly sends help.

"When you call for help," says Rick Robinson, Urgent.ly's senior vice president of product, "[dispatchers] often say, 'We'll send a truck in an hour.' The wait is unsettling, even frightening." With Urgent.ly, drivers can watch a map to see how far away assistance is and can even call the driver for extra reassurance. "Our fastest from the moment someone requested help until we serviced them was eight minutes." Robinson says Urgent.ly averages about 30 minutes from call to service.

Urgent.ly users pay a flat rate of $75 for jump starts, flat tires, lockouts or gas. Towing to a location within 15 miles is $99. On the flip side, Robinson says that they pay the towing companies they work with "more than they make with a road club, and we pay them quickly—in under 48 hours—which is unusual in the industry."

Urgent.ly also offers FamilyView, a way for parents and others to help when people they love are stranded. "It's extra peace of mind for family members," Robinson says. "If you get a call from your college-age daughter that she has a flat, your daughter can request help herself [through Urgent.ly], and through FamilyView, you can watch [help arrive] on the phone and watch as the transaction occurs. It's unique and people love it."

Robinson envisions integrating Urgent.ly's now-open API with travel apps and car dealerships and large auto mechanics manufacturers (both of which might do frequent towing), and developers for "non-obvious [partnerships] as well. We're pretty early in the process. We've received three proposals so far." Developers interested in submitting an idea can do so here.

He also says that Urgent.ly, which has raised "a couple of seed/angel rounds," will be raising a Series A round soon. "We're on the cusp of hiring," Robinson says. "We're anxious to be able to hire folks within our area, in tech, product and marketing. But we need to be conservative."

This article was updated March 2, 2015 to include information about Urgent.ly’s integration with AT&T’s Drive platform.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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